During the years of apartheid in South Africa, most of the Methodist Church’s involvement in education was halted by the government. Schools were closed, land was confiscated and obstacles to new efforts were set in place.
When Allan Boesak entered Pollsmoor prison last month, even some of the prison guards demonstrated on his behalf. Before entering the gates, the theologian, antiapartheid activist and onetime leader of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches again asserted he was innocent of theft and fraud involving donations to his Foundation for Peace and Justice (FPJ).
South Africa has the world’s second largest AIDS epidemic (in gross numbers). Its neighbor, Zimbabwe, ranks first. During the past ten years, while AIDS has come under control in central African countries with far fewer resources, the disease has gone out of control in South Africa, in the richest, most cosmopolitan nation in the whole sub-Saharan region.
A pastor from South Africa was finishing his first year as a full-time pastor in the U.S. He had served churches in the two countries, so I asked him to compare the role of the church in the U.S. with its role in South Africa.
When Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was asked in 1993 why he was attending a “parliament of the world’s religions,” he answered that we are told to “welcome strangers,” that many things are happening in the world which people of different religions need to confront jointly, and that Christians can find such a gathering a unique occasion to talk about Jesus.
In the movie District 9, an alien spaceship stalls in the skies above Johannesburg. After three months with no communication, South Africans decide to board the ship, only to find a million aliens who need rescuing. They move them to District 9, an area that’s a cross between a township and a refugee camp.